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Illinois legislators bristle at Blagojevich's action

State Sen. Bill Haine knows Centralia native Roland Burris from the early 1990s, when Haine was serving his first term as Madison County state's attorney and Burris was the state attorney general.

"Very nice gentleman. Has a good record in public office," Haine said. "But he should not have taken this appointment, he should not have gotten himself involved in this."

Haine, D-Alton, was referring to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's appointment Tuesday of Burris to Illinois' vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Like other southern Illinois lawmakers, Haine was respectful Tuesday of Burris, but he said Blagojevich making any appointment to the seat showed "profound disrespect for the people of Illinois."

Haine doubts the Burris appointment will fly, in part because U.S. senators have vowed not to seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich.

"Rod couldn't have appointed one of the 12 apostles with that line in the sand. It's not going to go anywhere," Haine said. "This is not the Book of the Month Club."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, called Blagojevich's action "an act of political defiance."

Durbin added, "This effort today will lead nowhere."

Durbin on Tuesday said Blagojevich needs to resign and allow the appointment to be made by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat who would replace Blagojevich as governor.

Shortly after Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell the Senate seat, Durbin suggested having a special election for Illinoisans to choose the next senator. Durbin and other Democrats later backed away from the idea, saying it would be too costly and take too long to have an election.

Republicans maintain that a special election is needed so that the next senator isn't blemished by the corruption investigation.

Patty Shuh, spokeswoman for state Sen. Frank Watson, R-Greenville, said: "If the Democrats who control this place were to come back into session and pass legislation for a special election, Illinois residents would finally be able to choose a United States senator, and that's what we're hopeful for."

State Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Greenville, said: "Today's appointment was another example of Democrat dysfunction. Lawmakers were in Springfield on Dec. 15 to vote on a special elections bill, but Democrats in the House flip-flopped on the issue and said they could not reach a consensus on the issue. Consequently, no vote was taken on the issue.

Stephens added, "If the Democrats have learned anything and truly cared about the people of Illinois, they would agree to a special election. We need to clear the air of the stench of dirty pay-to-play politics."

Haine said, "Even with a special election bill, if we had passed it, we don't know what the governor would have done with it, and a special election wouldn't have been until May or June. If we could have agreed on a special election bill, we should have proceeded with it last month, but at that time, the governor, through his attorney, was making implied promises that such an appointment would not be made."

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